Having worked in and around the procurement community for many years, I know that procurement can take on a mythology of its own. This is often built on misconceptions about how the procurement process operates. Here are a few of the myths I’ve heard repeatedly through the years:
You can never beat the incumbent. Sure, there is no denying that the incumbent has access to officials and information that others don’t. But the truth is that incumbents still lose. If another vendor has a well-executed sales strategy and can put together a concise and persuasive response, it is possible to beat the incumbent. Moreover, the incumbent may be in hot water for poor performance, making a new vendor exactly what the government may be looking for.
If you protest, you will never win another contract. Some companies believe that they should never protest because they will be “blackballed” by the agency and will not get any business from the government customer in the future. This is untrue. Procurement officers and government agencies understand that protests are part of the process. While a procurement officer doesn’t look forward to defending his or her award decision, few take it personally. A well-grounded protest won’t cost you future contracts.
It’s too hard to sell to government. The government marketplace is a big one with many officials, agencies and procurement officers. But, at the end of the day, selling to the government is remarkably similar to selling in the commercial sector. It begins with identifying a target customer, building relationships, and understanding your value proposition. Government officials are human too. It may take longer to close the sale, but the government selling process still centers on building the trust of your customer.
If I take an exception to a contract term, I will be disqualified. Taking an exception to a government standard contract term is hardly a surprise to anyone. After all, the government’s terms and conditions are mostly one-sided provisions that only benefit the government. While submitting an exception should not be taken lightly, it does not always result in an automatic disqualification, especially as the size and the complexity of the scope of work increases. If you do take an exception, be sure to offer a justification and new language so your reasoning is clear.